Where do l start….
For me this book was totally amazing, it went against the conformities of society for the time in which it was written.
When a single mother and her son move into the village they become the talk of it. Mrs Graham moved to seclusion for a very good reason, to conceal herself and her son from her vulgar husband. Her husband would not freely let her take their ‘child and what remains of her (my) fortune’, so she had to run under the cover of darkness to live a concealed, secluded life for the sake of her son.
Helen was young and impetuous when she first came across Mr Huntingdon.
Mr Huntingdon was a charmer who came with a reputation. This reputation, known to most, was what Helen naively refused to see. Helen tried to find the good in Mr Huntingdon, and if there were any slight errors in his ways believed that she could rectify them. Helens’ aunt tried to dissuade Helen from becoming involved with Mr Huntingdon by putting her in the path of other worthy suitors, who were all rebuffed by Helen.
Once Helen became Mrs Huntingdon she soon discovered that Mr Huntingdon was not all she thought him to be. Throughout their early married years she came to see that her choice of a suitor was not what she had bargained for. However, Helen was not going to admit the error of her ways (her impetuousness), so she undertook her ‘duty’ very seriously, calmly and with decorum. Arthur was, in fact, a selfish man who it seems could charm the birds out of the trees, possibly committing more than one adulterous crime (in my eyes). Helen only wrote about the account of adultery that she found out about, that she was warned about but refused to hear the information which might have softened the blow. Mr Huntingdon became a vulgar alcoholic who tried to commit his young son to follow in his foot steps. He even offered for his friends to try it on with his wife/have their way with her, informing them that they had ‘his blessing’ to do so. Mr Huntingdon, being the unsavoury character that he was even restricted/controlled the monies Mrs Huntingdon had access to after learning she planned to leave him having saved some money for hers and their sons passage. Thus, forcing her to leave (with little Arthur) under the cover of darkness and live in relatively total seclusion, under a fictional name, more for the safety of her son than herself.
However, her concealment is under threat because of the gossip and the need for the villagers to become intimately acquainted with her, and her past. One villager in particular falls head over heals in love with Mrs Helen Graham – Mr Gilbert Markham. Gilbert would so dearly like to put the gossiping to bed (defend her honour) but he does not know the whole story: like the rest he believes Mrs Graham is a widow living with her son. After becoming intimately acquainted Mrs Graham agrees to meet with Gilbert to explain why they can have only have a brother and sister type relationship, but he never goes to meet her, for he sees her with another – Mr Lawrence and completely misreads the situation. Gilbert fuelled by jealousy causes harm to Mr Lawrence when they are alone. When Gilbert can resist the torment of his heart no longer of wanting to know why they can not be together he visits Mrs Graham at Wildfell Hall. In offer of explanation, an injured, Helen gives Gilbert her manuscript to read…
…Whilst reading the manuscript he learns a lot about her past and how she has the conviction of seeing her mistake through right to the end, and how she would complain to no one. He learns how monstrous Mr Huntingdon is, what Helen has had to endure throughout her marriage. Alongside this, Gilbert learns how he completely misjudged Mr Lawrence, but is it too late to rectify his wrong doing?
Is Helen completely lost to Gilbert? Would Helen ever be completely free of Mr Huntingdon? Is there a future for Helen and Gilbert? Can either of them be truly happy, together or apart?
There are other twists and turns before the book ends, which l will not spoil for you, but l will pose the question ‘how much more can/has Helen to endure?’
Could Mr Huntingdon be more villainous than Mr Wickham? You will need to read ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ to answer that.
I loved every moment of this book from start to finish, it is a real page turner, you will have problems putting it down – just like l did!